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Tiger Woods poised to return to public eye

February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods will lift the veil -- at least slightly -- on Friday when the world's top golfer makes his first public comments since a sex scandal sparked his spectacular fall from grace.

Almost three months after the billionaire athlete went into self-imposed seclusion, his first public appearance promised to command international attention, even as it provoked controversy.

Where Woods would be when it was all over remained unclear. US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem seemed to suggest this week that the golfer was headed back to a therapy program.

"I don't know what he's going to do after he finishes his rehab," Finchem said this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona.

"I don't know what decisions he has to make. In a vacuum we'd like him back as soon as possible -- but we want him back importantly when he's dealt with the issues he felt like he had to deal with."

Woods was to deliver his remarks at 11:00 am Friday (1600 GMT) at the PGA Tour's headquarters at the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse before a select group of journalists and a lone television camera. Related Article: Golf Writers snub Woods

By Thursday, television trucks were gathering and security measures were in place.

There has been a wave of speculation about what Woods might have to say -- just as lurid revelations of his marital infidelity set off an avalanche of speculation about his private life late last year.

"It's a private matter, really, but he's a public person," former Masters champion Bernhard Langer said from Boca Raton, Florida, where the Champions Tour's Allianz Championship will tee off Friday.

"I don't think it's that private a matter when you're a public person."

While the event was to be aired live on US networks and various sports cable channels, critics denounced Woods' decision to limit the number of journalists who could attend in person and his refusal to take questions.

The Golf Writers Association of America declined to participate as pool reporters.

"The position, simply put, is all or none," Vartan Kupelian, president of the 950-member group said.

"This is a major story of international scope. To limit the ability of journalists to attend, listen, see and question Woods goes against the grain of everything we believe."

Those tuning in can expect a carefully crafted statement to go with the closely controlled environment.

"This is not a press conference," Woods's agent Mark Steinberg said.

Steinberg said Woods "wants to begin the process of making amends and that's what he's going to discuss."

But no hint has been given as to what plans Woods might reveal, and whether the 14-time major champion will return soon to competition and his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.

The latest photos of Woods, 34, showed him jogging and hitting golf balls, suggesting he is far from hanging up his golf shoes, but his future has been uncertain since November, when the married father-of-two mysteriously crashed his car outside his Florida home, unleashing a massive scandal.

His squeaky clean image was quickly tarnished after a series of women came forward to allege affairs with Woods.

He disappeared from public view, limiting his comments to sparse statements on his website that eventually included an admission of infidelity and the announcement that he was taking an "indefinite break" from golf.

While Woods' insistence on strictly controlling his first public appearance prompted criticism, so has his timing.

Friday will mark the third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona and critics have noted that consulting firm Accenture was one of the first companies to sever ties with Woods amid the scandal.

South African golfer Ernie Els told Golf Week magazine that Woods was "selfish" for taking attention away from a tournament.

However, a spokesman for Accenture noted Thursday that Woods would speak several hours before play got underway.

"I think Tiger's got his reasons why he wants the announcement on Friday," said Fred Hawrysh, Accenture's director of corporate communications.

"It was deliberately done so we'd have a big window between (Woods) and when we teed off at noon local time. If he really wanted to interfere with the tournament, they would have run it during the tournament, so I think it's coincidental."

 

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